Hundreds are crying in the streets, hundreds of others are praying and setting up camp here. Some are even panicking and believe this is a sign of the end of the world. I have never seen anything like this in my whole career.
That’s the scene reported by a public spokesperson in Baruipur, a city in India’s eastern West Bengal State, where a baby boy was born recently with four arms and four legs. Those extra limbs make the child resemble one of the numerous Hindu deities with multiple limbs, causing many to refer to him as a “God boy.”
Doctors have been quick to point out that this is an unusual but known condition known as a “parasitic twin.” This is different than conjoined twins where two fetuses develop joined at the head, hip or legs and usually share internal organs. Parasitic twins develop when one fetus is malformed, causing it to never fully develop and ultimately become part of the other one. The remains of the second twin can often be surgically removed. No information was released on the boy’s condition or if surgery to remove the extra limbs is planned or feasible.
That sound scientific explanation hasn’t stopped believers from flocking to the boy’s family in Baruipur, a city of about 50,000 with, according to the most recent census, an average literacy rate of 84%, much higher than the national average of 59.5%. However, the Hindu faith is strong in West Bengal, which hosts a large annual gajan or festival in honor of the deity Shiva.
The Hindu god mentioned most often in respect to the “God Boy” is Brahma, who is depicted with four heads, four faces, and four arms. Brahma is one of the few Hindu gods who holds no weapons, instead grasping a book and prayer beads while using each head to recite the four Vedas.
If you’re going to hope a child is a god, that sounds like a good one to hope for. If the local authorities think they have crowds now, wait until the God Boy’s image shows up on a piece of toast.